Malaysia: A Dubious Political Issue

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Mar 12 19:33:53 UTC 2009

A Dubious Political Issue
Headline Opinion  2009-03-12 10:40

The issue of teaching science and mathematics in English has become a
dubious political issue that those involved are reluctant to give up.
Of course the unsettled issue is troublesome and it could trigger a
more serious problem in the long term. For example, it has led to a
demonstration that embarrassed UMNO and made things difficult for
Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
UMNO is the so-called defender of the Malays while the Education
Minister is the guardian of Bahasa Malaysia. Today, Malay racists held
a massive rally to oppose UMNO's language policy and critics
government's for belittling the status of Bahasa Malaysia. How should
Hishammuddin respond to it?

The demonstration is only the first step. UMNO and Hishammuddin know
it very well that more disastrous consequences might be coming if they
do not deal with it.  "If they keep on going like this, they will have
to pay the political price someday."
It seems like they can blame the Opposition. However, the problem is
not as simple as it seems to be. The demonstration was not organised
by PAS nor Keadilan. Instead, it was organised jointly by 14 Malay
cultural and educational groups and was led by national writer A.
Samad Said and former Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka Director General Hassan
Ahmad, who are politically neutral.

UMNO can attack the the Opposition but it can't offend the Malay
society, particularly the conservative and traditional Malay community
that stress on their racial identity and mother-tongue. This area is
the source of UMNO's votes and its foundation of power.
Even worse, the demonstration was held right before the UMNO party
elections and Hishammuddin is one of the candidates for the
vice-president position. It is not a coincidence, but they have been
well prepared instead.

Representatives with strong racial consciousness may vent their anger
on Hishammuddin during the UMNO General Assembly, affecting his
chances of winning the post.

UMNO may as well angered conservative and traditional Malay voters,
making them to turn to Pakatan Rakyat.

If they keep on going like this, they will have to pay the political
price someday.

However, there are also political prices to pay if they give up the
policy of teaching science and mathematics in English.

Firstly, all the previous efforts will be nullified as they are unable
to recover all the investments and costs. Also, they need to bear the
burden of a failed policy.

Secondly, they have to offend former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir
Mohamad and they will get endless criticisms and condemnations as a

UMNO and Hishammuddin have been caught in the dilemma. Should they
continue the policy or abandon it? It seems that they have no choice
but to give it up.

Hishammuddin has yet to announce his decision but the answer is almost
certain. Of course, this is only my personal view. (By TAY TIAN YAN/
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/ Sin Chew Daily)

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